Special Session: This is a time for ideas, not partisanship; Still time to make your voice heard in Thrive’s Advance Now survey

Following our state’s civil war over the budget repair bill, Democrats called on Gov. Scott Walker to take a more bipartisan approach. The governor apparently listened, working with Tony Evers on education reform and, more recently, calling for ideas from members of both parties for his special session on job creation called Back to Work Wisconsin.

For the sake of employment opportunities for their constituents, and especially because voters are likely to watch more closely than usual, it’s incumbent upon all lawmakers to put on their government scholarship hats and cut out the partisanship.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, is on board with a special session on jobs, but his concern is that Walker and the Republicans are pushing bills that have nothing to do with job creation. With the exception of a new venture capital proposal, I think he has a point because I don’t see the job-creating relevance of some of the measures that will be taken up, but at least bills from members of both parties will be considered. Other lawmakers might actually be compelled to shock the world by ignoring the usual partisan blather and putting forth concrete proposals of their own.

The first special session under Walker, held in January before the budget repair bill ignited protests at the Capitol, produced some tangible economic benefits, but the weakening national economy has served to undermine them. Following the July jobs report, the state had created nearly 40,000 new jobs since Jan. 1, and the vast majority (88%) of Wisconsin CEOs felt the state was headed in the right direction. That progress was arrested in the months that followed, in part because of the knuckle-headed game of chicken that was played by federal officials over the debt ceiling.

With Walker's goal of creating 250,000 jobs in his first term, and with job creation being the top priority of voters, I don’t want to hear vapid comments like “job creation will only help Walker, so count us out.” If nothing else, witnessing people in both parties constructively working together would help alleviate some of the uncertainty that Wisconsin employers are feeling.

It’s time for lawmakers to get serious and think about their jobless constituents, not the special interests that are writing checks to fund their next campaign. Consumer confidence is near an all-time low in some surveys, and strong majorities believe that U.S. economic conditions are getting worse, not better. We’ve had enough of the games and enough of the posturing, and enough of the huffing and puffing before the television cameras.

Lawmakers in both parties get paid to solve problems, not watch them unfold. Back to Work Wisconsin applies to our legislators, too, and if they don’t take their job-creating task seriously, they might find themselves out of political work come November of 2012.

Thrive survey worth your time

Even closer to home, Thrive has put forth a public input survey that will help develop Advance Now, a new regional economic growth strategy. The eight-county economic development organization is seeking business feedback to help shape the strategy, but the survey closes on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Thrive is also partnering with the Atlanta-based Market Street Services, led by founder and CEO J. Mac Holladay, to develop a shared vision for sustained economic growth with the goal of better translating regional assets into greater economic prosperity and preventing the Madison region from falling behind as the economy recovers.

Thrive believes the Madison Region has a fragmented economic development model – featuring more than 90 separate plans – that has become outdated. With Advance Now, it seeks to develop a new road map to support key industries and promote business retention.

The organization also believes the Madison Region is at a key moment for shaping its future prospects. "This is a time across the region when we're going to be making decisions about the future, and putting those decisions into action," said Jennifer Post Tyler, interim executive vice president for Thrive. "So this is really the key time to provide your insights, say what's working and also what needs improvement. That's part of a process in which we really are making decisions for the next few years."

It’s worth our time (about 10-15 minutes) to make a contribution via the public input survey, especially because the Advance Now strategy could help Thrive obtain a federally approved Economic Development District (EDD) designation for the Madison region, which would lead to more funding for revolving loan funds, planning grants, and infrastructure.

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